Travel

17 Jan 2019, 16:30 PM

STA, 17 January 2019 - Its waters sparkling in the sun, the Alpine Lake Bled is considered the epitome of picture-perfect and millions have photographed the vista with the island and the little church perched on top. But look below the glistening surface, and the picture is much murkier.

The lake ecology has been deteriorating, mostly due to the surge in swimming, fishing and boating, and rapid development of the lake shoreline. The lake water has long been designated as good or acceptable, but by 2021 it may fall afoul of the water quality standards prescribed by the EU, according to the Environment Agency.

Tourism is putting pressure on local infrastructure

For waters to improve, it is necessary to reduce the intensity of the use of the lake area. "A sustainable improvement and stabilisation of the situation in the lake can only be achieved by removing the causes of pollution and by taking measures to reduce the intensity of the use of the lake area," said Špela Remec Rekar a limnologist (inland water researcher) at the Environment Agency who has been monitoring Lake Bled water quality for several years.

She notes that the number of tourist nights in Bled had almost trebled between 1994 and 2016. Traffic on and around the lake has surged, and there are more and more swimmers and fishermen. Infrastructure, including sewage, has not been keeping up with the increase in visitors.

Remec Rekar said that aside from improving sewage, traffic around the lake should be scaled back and the bird population reduced. But the most important measure would be to ban the feeding of fowl and fish.

Fish feed a problem for the water

Fish feeding has been a major factor in the deterioration of water quality. The law stipulates that each fisherman may bring in five kilo of carp fodder per day, which for Lake Bled amounts to over ten tons of nutrients being introduced to the water each year. This drives up phosphorous levels and supports the development of dangerous cyanobacteria.

The municipality is aware of the problem and is already mulling limiting carp feeding, but it says this is a process. "We have to join forces with all stakeholders and determine what is possible, sensible and feasible," said Tomaž Rogelj, the director of the Bled Tourism Office.

Last year the municipality bought an electric boat for cleaning the lake surface, which removes organic waste such as leaves as well as man-made pollutants. But Remec Remškar says that given the size of the problem, this is a negligible improvement.

15 Jan 2019, 12:35 PM

STA, 14 January 2019 - Slovenia is not perceived as a destination with offerings for discerning guests willing to pay more. This follows from an analysis of online communication conducted by the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO).

The STO has analysed online opinions, questions and demand by travellers and tourists in Slovenia's target markets Austria, Germany, Italy, the UK, France, Switzerland and Benelux countries.

"Based on the latest research we find that Slovenia is perceived as a destination different from mass tourism but not as a destination with offerings for discerning guests or a destination where visitors are willing to pay more, nor even as a destination offering unique accommodation or experiences, which is the biggest challenge of Slovenian tourism," STO said.

The analysis found that destinations regularly perceived as "boutique" by online users are Paris, Venice, Italy, Greece and far-away islands and countries.

Slovenia is mentioned as such only in editorials or specialised articles, while users only rarely associate elements of exclusivity with the country.

Small, magical, hidden gem vs unnoticed, uninteresting and untouristy

When they do, the expressions they use are small, magical nature and a hidden gem. Suggestions of perception of exclusivity also appear in connection with the country's cuisine or glamping.

The users also mentioned some unique Slovenian sights such as the Postojna Cave.

On the down side, Slovenia is labelled as unnoticeable, overlooked, uninteresting until experienced and untouristy. Also mentioned was a mix of different styles and inconsistency of offerings.

Positive impressions refer to the quiet, beauty of nature and accessible prices, while negative ones mention crowds in some destinations and underdeveloped tourism such as in the fields of infrastructure or a lack of museums outside Ljubljana.

The most common key words associated with Slovenia are Bled and nature. The lakeside town is so popular that some tourists know Bled while they do not know the country it is located in.

Visitors most often recommend visiting the western part of the Alpine macro-destination. including Bled, Bohinj, and the Soča Valley, Postojna Cave, Ljubljana and Piran. They are disappointed by Portorož, Celje, Škofja Loka and Maribor.

The food is deemed as satisfactory with some above-average exceptions, while accommodation is perceived as not luxurious.

The most exceptional experiences associated with Slovenia are canyoning, visiting a vineyard, visiting caves, paragliding, cooking classes and food tours.

All our stories tagged tourism can be found here

14 Jan 2019, 19:00 PM

Slovenia has a short coastline, far overshadowed by its neighbour to the south. But the little access to the Adriatic that does exist is an attractive and rather varied place, from the glitz, casinos and marina of Portorož to the green tranquillity of Debeli rtič (“the fat little cape”), on the Ankaran peninsula and just a short walk (or swim) from Italy.

It was declared a landscape park in June 2018, and while the area already has several nature reserves, on land and at sea, this one is a welcome addition to keeping part of the coast in a relatively pristine condition. A new website, in Slovene, Italian and English, has been set up to promote Debeli rtič and teach people how to behave when visiting.

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©Jaka Ivančič

The natural attractions of the area include flysche cliffs, with the same rock creating a shallow seabed that gives rise to a high level of biodiversity, with rare and endangered animals such as coral loaf, fan mussel, and long-snouted seahorse. Slightly further inland the landscape park is home to more than 200 different plant species, as well as vineyards and small area of oak forest, which once covered the whole peninsula. Slightly less picturesque, but no less valuable in terms of ecosystems, there’s the soft, wet land of St Nicholas Mediterranean salt meadow, with much for botanists and naturalists to enjoy, as well as anyone else who likes a relaxing walk in the sea air.

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©Jaka Ivančic

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©Jaka Ivančic

You can visit the website to learn more about the place here, and see more pictures by the parks first ambasador, the photographer Jaka Ivančic, here.

Related: Ljubljana Day Trips - the coast

08 Jan 2019, 14:20 PM

STA, 8 January 2019 - Slovenian ski resorts are fairly happy with the way the season has been running so far despite what has been a serious lack of natural snow. Some have however been struggling, in particular the two high-altitude resorts Kanin and Vogel in the north-west, which do not have major artificial snow-making capabilities.

"Considering the conditions, we're relatively content," the head of the association of ski resort operators Ernest Kovač told the STA.

He explained that visitor numbers are comparable to last year's in most major skiing centres in the country owing to what was a relatively early activation of snow cannons.

The number of skiers is even up slightly at some of the resorts with artificial snow-making capabilities, but no centre has so far been able to open all the available ski lifts. Rogla in the north-east has come closest, having activated almost all of its slopes.

Things are more problematic at smaller centres as well as at Vogel, the ski resort above Lake Bohinj, and Kanin, Slovenia's highest-altitude ski resort.

Located on the Italian border and looking for a boost after it was reopened in late 2016, Kanin has seen a 25% to 30% drop compared to the 2017/2018 season. Situated at an altitude of over 2,000 metres, the centre has borrowed a snow cannon to start making artificial snow for the first time in its history.

Vogel has seen 32 skiing days this season, down almost 50% compared to last year. The Vogel cable car has transported 7,300 people this season, which compares to 27,000 at this point last year. The centre's representatives however remain optimistic, arguing some snow and a few sunny days could still turn things around completely.

Related: Opening Dates and What’s New at Slovenia’s Ski Resorts, 2018/19

04 Jan 2019, 16:30 PM

January 03, 2019 - Ex-Yu Aviation has a report that details how the Slovenian government and Ljubljana Airport have worked over the last few years, and are continuing to work, to attract nonstop flights to the Middle East. The site quotes Zmago Skobir, the General Manager of Fraport Slovenia, the firm that operates Jože Pučnik Airport, as saying last week: "We are working closely with the Ministry for Economic Development and Technology concerning flights to the Arab world. We also have good cooperation with the Slovenian National Tourism Board, with which we are jointly identifying markets of interest and coordinating sales and marketing activities… The more direct routes, the more investors there will be, as well as more tourists. So, the Gulf is our priority but we have very strong competition for these markets in Zagreb, Belgrade, Venice and Vienna".

In recent years both Flydubai and Qatar Airways have expressed interest in flights to and from Ljubljana, while the airport has also held discussions with Emirates, Etihad Airways and Air Arabia, although without any deals being signed. The story, which can be read in full here, ends by noting that the country which supplies the most visitors to Slovenia from the Gulf region is Saudi Arabia, followed by the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

20 Dec 2018, 14:20 PM

STA, 19 December 2018 - Slovenia's tourism industry has had another record year, with tourist nights expected to top 15.2 million by the end of 2018, up from last year's 12.6 million. Still, some challenges remain to be addressed, including the shortage of staff and low pay as well as the consolidation of state-owned tourism companies.

 

Slovenia now a trendy destination

Slovenia has regularly made it to various lists of destinations worth exploring which are compiled by specialist media abroad, and the country's promotional campaigns have regularly won awards at major international tourism events.

"Slovenia is not only a recognisable destination, it is now a trendy destination," is how Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) director Maja Pak has recently summed the country's position in global tourism.

Tourism revenue, a key indicator of tourism performance, is growing, rising by 11.6% to EUR 2.12m in the first nine months of the year.

While the 2017 tourist nights figures were exceeded already in October, Slovenia expects to record over 5.6 million tourist arrivals in 2018, up from 4.95 million last year.

The number of foreign guests is to reach 4.2 million by the end of the year, and they are expected to generate almost 11 million tourist nights, STO data shows.

The growth is thus considerably more robust that in the EU or in the world.

Hotels in the black, differences in ownership

Following the crisis, hotels are back in the black, yet Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, whose ministry is in charge of tourism, is not entirely happy yet.

He believes the relatively low value added should be blamed on the fact that as many as 40% of hotels are in state ownership.

He thus insists on their restructuring as envisaged in the 2017-2021 strategy on sustainable development of Slovenian tourism.

Once they are brought under one roof, preferably under Slovenian Sovereign Holding, they should be consolidated to secure a higher value added and then gradually sold.

He believes there is room for no more than two to three major groups in the sector, and is confident the incumbent government will complete the restructuring process.

However, Počivalšek has admitted on several occasions that this will not be easy since not all stakeholders have the same view on the issue.

That even state stakeholders have different interests in the sector has been recently proven by the fact that several different state companies and funds bid for six hotels on the coast which are being sold by Istrabenz Turizem.

To achieve a higher value added, Slovenian tourism also needs to develop new innovative products, which implies investment into infrastructure.

To encourage the investment cycle, the ministry and SID Bank have launched a EUR 160m loan scheme for new accommodation facilities. Počivalšek has said there is much interest.

Higher tourist tax, further legislative changes in the making

By passing changes to the law on encouraging tourism development, the government enabled municipalities to raise tourist fee and introduce a new tax to secure more funds for tourism promotion.

The tourist free was capped at EUR 2.5 per person a night, but is still set by individual municipalities.

The new tax meanwhile amounts to 25% of the tourist fee and will be charged as of 2019 as a a new source of STO funds, bringing it an estimated EUR 4.7m a year.

Many municipalities have opted to raise the tourist fee, with several popular destinations such as Ljubljana, Piran and Bled raising it to the maximum.

The ministry has assessed the measure will annually bring all Slovenian municipalities additional EUR 6.9m.

For 2019, the ministry is planning further legislative changes to relax the rules on the hospitality sector and mountain guides.

New rules will also be introduced governing tourist accommodation facilities which introduce internationally-comparable Hotelstars standards.

Owners of accommodation facilities have until 1 April to adjust to a unified set of criteria to classify accommodation facilities.

New collective bargaining agreement, pay still low

Staff is one of the most burning issues in hospitality and tourism, with employers having a hard time finding quality staff in Slovenia or in the broader region.

This is mainly due to difficult working conditions and low pay.

A new collective bargaining agreement was signed in August, bringing higher wages for workers receiving the lowest pay, a higher annual holiday allowance of EUR 1,000 and changes to overtime work.

Nevertheless, hospitality and tourism trade unions have already announced their plan to push for fresh pay talks.

Feel Slovenia your way

This year was one of the most intensive and successful years for Slovenia in terms of marketing as well. The STO continued with its digital campaign Slovenia - Make New Memories this time on 17 markets, including in the US and Canada for the first time.

Its main promotional slogan "Slovenia - Green. Active. Healthy." will be replaced with "I Feel Slovenia. My Way." in 2019.

However, just like in 2018, culture will remain in the focus of the STO's promotional campaigns, to be replaced by gastronomy in 2020 and 2021.

13 Dec 2018, 16:50 PM

There’s perhaps no phrase more ripe for retirement in writing about Slovenia than “hidden gem”, especially when it comes to the places that are usually mentioned in travel articles introducing the sunny side of the Alps to a wider audience. Many of these simply detail already well-visited locations, like Ljubljana’s Old Town, Bled, Piran, Postojna, and so on, with many of the, eh, more obscure jewels remaining unpromoted.

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Find out how to take this picture, here

And of course, this focus on a few places means that these get put on the must-do itineraries of many visitors – for what’s a two-day trip to Slovenia without kremšnita and a hike to that bench? – and this, if nothing else, creates some logistical problems with regard to parking, overcrowding and so on, not to mention “ruining” the places for some, including local residents with no direct interest in the tourist industry.

To this end the Slovenian Tourist Board, among others, has been working to promote some of the less-trafficked locations in the country, aiming to spread the prosperity that can come with travel and tourism, extend the stays of visitors (which are still, on average, less than two days), and show more of what makes the young nation such a pleasant one, and perhaps encourage more folk to relocate or invest here.

One organisation that’s also working in this regard is the national broadcaster Radio SI, which just announced the winners of its hidden gems competition. The final list, obtained after a selection of options was put to a vote, draws more attention to 18 tourist packages and products that aim to show off the diversity and wealth of Slovenia’s of natural and cultural heritage, from historic sites to gourmet experiences, hiking tours to craft beer adventures.

The list of 18 recommendations is presented below, with a link to the main webpage at the end, while simply clicking on the name will tell you more about each offer.

1: Laško craft beer experience

2: Gourmet over Mura

3: Tastes of Pohorje

4: Winter Weekend in Jezersko

5: Exploring the history, scenery and taste of Brežice

6: Hard coal and fragile glass in the Zasavje region

7: Delights of Count Blagaj’s land

8: Underground adventures in Geopark Karavanke

9: Exploring Tolmin and the remnants of the Isonzo Front

10: Mediterranean flavours of Slovenian Istria

11: The Brown Bear Kingdom

12: Hidden treasures of Slovenj Gradec and Mislinja Valley

13: Idrija Adventure

14: Charming Slovenia Herbal glamping resort

15: Among the Herdsmen on Velika planina

16: The Valley of Kolpa’s green beauty

17: Green Adventures in the Vipava Valley

18: Getaway to the Red Planet (the Karst and Terran wine)

The full story on Radio SI can be found here

12 Dec 2018, 16:30 PM

STA, 11 December 2018 - Slovenia expects to record more than 5.6 million tourist arrivals and more than 15.2 million tourist nights by the end of 2018, in what will be yet another record year. Tourism revenue is also growing, up by almost 12% to EUR 2.12m in the first nine months of the year at annual level.

 

"That 2018 will be a new record year is already clear. The number of tourist nights from 2017 was exceeded as early as the end of October," Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said at a news conference in Ljubljana on Tuesday.

He attributed the good results to cooperation. "Measures by the ministry and the Slovenian Tourist Board (STO) have not been that well harmonised in a long time, tourism companies and destinations have not been that responsive and creative in a long time."

This year's promotion has been largely based on culture, which will also be the case in 2019. STO director Maja Pak said 2018 was one of the most intensive and successful in terms of marketing.

She is also happy with the media attention abroad, stressing Slovenia had been regularly making it to lists of recommended destinations. "Slovenia is not only a recognisable destination, it is now a trendy destination."

Slovenian food and drink the next focus of tourism efforts, along with some restructuring

Looking ahead, the STO said it would be all about gastronomy in 2020 and 2021 as Slovenia had been chosen the European Region of Gastronomy 2021 and influential French restaurant guide Gault & Millau published a Slovenian edition of its high-profile restaurant guide.

The minister announced his ministry will be working on three priorities next year: restructuring of state-owned tourism companies, a loan scheme worth EUR 160m and legislation simplification.

Počivalšek insists on the restructuring in line with the national asset management strategy, which envisages bringing all the companies under the roof of Slovenian Sovereign Holding, improving their management to secure a higher added value and then privatising them.

Noting "things were going in the desired direction", he is convinced the project will be successfully carried out, including the privatisation already under this government.

He insists the companies must be sold to good owners with a development vision.

"In all sectors, I promote prudent privatisation to the benefit of a company which is on sale, to the benefit of Slovenia, not to the benefit of the seller."

The minister is open as to who the new owners would be, saying the hotels could be sold to domestic or foreign companies, or to asset management funds.

Počivalšek also said there was a lot of interest in the loan scheme, so he believes the funds will be well used to increase the number of accommodation facilities.

State Secretary Eva Štravs Podlogar said the ministry would continue to simplify legislation, taking on the hospitality law and the law on mountain guides.

Related: All our stories tagged “tourism” are here

10 Dec 2018, 14:30 PM

STA, 9 December 2018 - The lakeside town of Bled, one of Slovenia's top tourism destinations, is set to see another boom year in tourism, having broken last year's record as early as October this year.

Visitors to the Alpine resort have spent over one million nights in one of its accommodation facilities in the first ten months of the year after the one millionth mark was broken for the first time ever at the end of last year.

It was British visitors who spent most nights at Bled (177,000), followed by Germans (92,000) and visitors from the United States (67,000) and Italy (65,000).

Since many Italians tend to spend their Christmas and New Year holidays in Bled, the local tourism board expects they will overtake the Americans as the third largest group of visitors in terms of nights.

Tourism statistics are expected to improve further because Bled has also attracted many of the biathlon fans and athletes competing at the Biathlon World Cup opener on Pokljuka just above Bled this week.

Related: Photo sports - that bench overlooking Lake Bled

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Photo: Screenshot of Google Image Search

07 Dec 2018, 14:20 PM

STA, 30 November 2018 - Slovenian hunters are getting older and their organisation is struggling with declining membership, which is just one of the challenges. They also oppose culling plans that they have no say in.

The Hunters' Association (Lovske zveze Slovenije) argues that the deer culling plan imposed by the Agriculture Ministry is excessive considering the size of the deer population.

The association has told the STA their members are not in a position to realise the planned culling, but that they face high fines, from EUR 4,100 up per a hunting club, if they do not.

Hunters took 8,229 red deer and 41,869 roe deer from nature last year, which includes large numbers that perished due to extremely low winter temperatures.

Under the plan, hunters should have killed almost 5,000 red deer and 39,986 roe deer.

Despite the large numbers of deer and wild boars lost in last year's winter kill, the Hunters' Association says they have been instructed to implement the culling plan for this year in full.

"We cannot agree with a plan that doesn't take into account the projected deer population trends, but only by the damage done to trees by game."

Average age of hunters is now over 56

The Hunters' Association, counting 22,000 members, is worried about dwindling membership numbers. They have also had to withdraw more than 200 hunting licences for various reasons this year.

The average age of hunters is quite high, standing at over 56 at the end of 2017.

Membership is a key source of income for hunting clubs but an important source of income is hunting tourism although the clubs managing hunting grounds pay a concession fee to the state.

Foreign game hunters coming to Slovenia are interested mainly in chamois and bear, but they also hunt other large game.

Related: Slovenia's Ministry of Environment Wants Hunters to Kill 200 Bears and 11 Wolves

Hunting tourism is the principal activity of special-purpose hunting reserves. Out of 408 hunting reserves in the country, 12 are special purpose.

Ten of these are managed by the Slovenia Forest Service (SFS) and one by the Triglav National Park, while hunting clubs are responsible for sustainable game management.

Hunting tourism is available to guests from Slovenia and abroad. The guests who are not hunters need to be accompanied by a hunter with a valid hunter's licence.

It costs between €600 and 6,500 to kill a bear in Slovenia

Apart from domestic guests, it is Austrians, Germans and Italians who come to hunt in Slovenia most often.

Ljubljanski Vrh, one of the ten reserves managed by the SFS, hosted 1,900 guest hunters last year, some of them several times.

The Forest Service made over EUR 1m from hunting tourism last year.

The guest hunter will pay between 600 and 6,500 euro for killing a bear plus a daily hunting fee. A red deer trophy comes at between 215 and 5,500 euro and a roe deer trophy between 50 and 400 euro.

05 Dec 2018, 12:50 PM

Ex-Yu Aviation reports that travellers to and from the UK will have new option in summer 2019, with British Airways launching a service that connects Ljubljana and Heathrow airports. The flights will run from July 15 to September 2, and will be an addition to the other regularly scheduled services between the British and Slovenian capitals, with easyJet flying out of Stanstead and Gatwick, and Wizz Air working from Luton.

Related: How to get to Ljubljana Airport from the city

The British Airways service from London Heathrow (LHR) have the flight number BA690, taking off from the UK at 17:20 and touching down at Ljubljana Airport at 20:35. From Slovenia to the UK the flight number is BA691, taking off at 21:20 and landing at 22:35. In both directions the route will be served by an Airbus A319

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